Why Giving Matters

Students Give Back

heart of the city piano
Photo credit Hannah Bursey

Grassroots initiatives gain crucial support through our Seeds of Change crowdfunding platform —and project leaders, often McGill students, learn that they really can change the world. The following fundraisers, all in support of student-led community outreach programs, are just four among more than 100 inspiring Seeds of Change success stories that are making a difference.

Heart of the City Piano

heart of the city piano Research has shown that music education enhances children’s learning skills across the board, but the cost of lessons and access to instruments are prohibitive for many families.

McGill student volunteers are helping to change that. Once a week, tutors with the student-run Montreal Heart of the City Piano program take their musical talents to elementary schools in underprivileged neighbourhoods to give free piano lessons. The team includes students from many Faculties, from Science, to Education, to Arts, and is part of a national organization that brings music education to children who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to receive private instruction.

Thanks to the Montreal chapter’s Seeds of Change crowdfunding campaign, students at four Montreal elementary schools – two English, two French – will have greater access to keyboards on which to practise their developing piano skills.

“The main motivation was that some children didn’t have pianos at home,” explains Shanil Wijesinghe, BA’18, a former Heart of the City co-director. Volunteer tutors would sit with students for an hour of piano work, and then discover the next week that the children hadn’t been able to rehearse at home. “The idea was to find a way to get keyboards to their homes so that they can practise.”

The money raised through Seeds of Change is enough for about nine new keyboards. Heart of the City initially bought one and tested out its keyboard-lending program at a pilot school. It plans to buy the additional instruments and begin lending them out in fall 2018.

The new keyboards are a step up: they have 88 keys, which are weighted to closely simulate what it’s like to play on an actual piano, Wijesinghe says.

Students display their piano skills at recitals held at the end of each semester, most recently in April at the Schulich School of Music’s Pollack Hall. When they ask if anyone wants to play again, “There’s a little bit of a pause,” he says. “And then, they all raise their hands.”

Eagle Spirit Camp

eagle spirit campEagle Spirit Camp is a popular summer draw, welcoming Indigenous youth to McGill as an introduction to post-secondary studies. For the ninth annual edition, a Seeds campaign helped cover the high travel costs for students from Nunavik, the northernmost region of Quebec. This July, during the new Eagle Spirit Science Futures Camp, 11 Indigenous high school students from communities across Quebec learned about science through two lenses – traditional and western – and were encouraged to consider careers in health. The campers were closely supported by seven Indigenous junior and senior counsellors – many of them former campers themselves. Photo credit Vincent Dumoulin


brainreachWhen BrainReach volunteers visit schools in Montreal and remote Indigenous communities to teach neuroscience workshops, they go equipped with props like calves’ brains. Graduate students in McGill’s Integrated Program in Neuroscience run the award-winning community outreach program. In 2018, they turned to Seeds of Change and surpassed their fundraising goal by a mile. That generosity enabled BrainReach to undertake a second trip this year to Inuit and Cree communities in northern Quebec. Funding also added new teaching materials, including electrodes for an electrophysiology lesson that’s a hit with students.

Let’s Talk Science

let's talk scienceStudents in Grades 6 to 8 bring STEM smarts to the Let’s Talk Science Challenge at McGill, an annual event that shows the accessibility (and fun!) of science, technology, engineering and math. The McGill branch of the national student-led outreach program turned to the Seeds of Change fundraising platform in order to create a higher quality event that’s drawing increasing interest, says doctoral student Maxana Weiss, MSc’18, administrative coordinator of Let's Talk Science at McGill. How does it go over with the kids? “They love it.”

Read our full Report on Giving 2018.